From the Arab nations around the world to Zimbabwe, tea seeps through world culture. In North African countries, for example, tea is always shared before business is conducted, thus it is known as “the oil of commerce.” In Japan, the drinking of tea is an element in religious rites, and in WWII Great Britain, Winston Churchill said that “tea is more important to the soldiers than munitions.”
Perhaps the most beautiful notion that accompanies the consumption of tea is the Zen thought that the whole universe can be experienced in a bowl of tea.
Tea drinking, soaked as it is in culture and ceremony, is also an important economic commodity. Countries as far flung as China, Argentina, Turkey and dozens of others grow tea. Tea is also linked to the colonization of various countries.
The British, for example, established tea plantations in India, using Indian labor to plant and tend the tea harvests, thus undercutting the price of Chinese tea while replacing it with their own English tea. But that is not the only way the British benefited from tea plantations. Indians did not drink tea before the British moved in. Then, emulating their colonizers, they began to drink tea, thus providing the British with a massive market. So the very product that was grown by Indian labor in India was then sold back to India at a profit, a typical scenario in the old colonial countries.
Tea is also used for myriad of medicinal purposes that include everything from consuming its antioxidants to losing weight. Some people even believe that the future can be foretold by reading loose leaf tea leaves! We have a lot of topics to cover–because tea, as it turns out, can be dried and then steeped in bags or loose in teapots, taken with milk or without, spiced or not, used for medicinal purposes or simply for the pleasure of its flavors and warm presence. Tea truly does have a big life and a long history.
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